Now and then we like to estimate what percentage of a given meal on our table is “local.” This little exercise is inspired by our delight in sourcing our food as close to home as possible and the Northwest Michigan Food & Farming Network’s “20 by 20” goal. By the year 2020 our Food & Farming Network envisions that at least 20% of the food consumed by Northern Michigan residents will be locally grown. Possible? As a family challenge we recently made pancakes that were at least 95% local.
In mid-July, Little Bites arrived in the mail . . . just a few days after Christine visited us! Christine spends part of her summers in Northern Michigan and it was such a treat to spend an evening with her and her family. And because local food is a natural part of her beautiful new cookbook, it seemed fitting that I should try a recipe with as many local ingredients as I could find outside my front doors and in my kitchen.
My morning started with the Little Bites recipe for raspberry-lemon whole wheat mini pancakes; a bowl of raspberries freshly picked from the garden; and an egg from the chicken coop. Then I pulled out whole milk from Shetler Family Dairy and flour from Grand Traverse Culinary Flours (relatively new on the local food scene). I was thrilled to find Leelanau-grown flour at our favorite grocery store last fall, and I’ve been buying it ever since. Christine’s recipe called for agave nectar, for which I substituted maple syrup. So the only non-local ingredients I used for these pancakes were baking powder, baking soda, salt, and a lovely little lemon.
The result was a delicious stack of cakes throughly enjoyed by local breakfast taste testers. We’ve since tried other recipes from this cookbook filled with “100 healthy, kid-friendly snacks,” and I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook shelf. Christine’s photographs are vibrant, her descriptions are engaging, and the recipes inside are sure to please the little people (and big people) in your life!
Our garden is a jungle of beautiful, edible goodness. Morning dew settles on flowering tomato plants. Spiders weave webs among ripening raspberries. Spiky, green cucumbers hide under sprawling vines, trailing beyond the straw mulch into the surrounding meadow. Peas hang amidst delicate tendrils, reaching for a holding place. Chamomile has taken over edges here and there — even sprouting and thriving in the chicken run. More calendula blooms each day, making flowers faster than I can pick for bouquets and salve.
Daisies thrive in front of our house and along the fence line. Onions do their thing. Garlic swells under the earth, the edges of its leaves tinged brown among dozens of volunteer borage plants. Bees swarm the fuzzy borage flowers.
Carrots grow — slow and steady — only the very tips of orange peeking out of the soil. Parsley is abundant in all stages — young and lush, mature and flowering. Marigolds smell slightly skunky as I kneel down among the vegetation to get a bug’s eye view. Kale keeps giving and giving. Celery loves its companion dill.
I soak in the abundance. I let it wash over me. This garden, this little place on earth, is so good to us. We give a little and we are rewarded one-hundred fold. It is overwhelmingly wonderful in July — wandering through and eating out of this jungle of a garden.
Yarrow Salve inspired by Taproot Magazine. I’m using Yarrow and Lemon Balm — the chopped herbs will soak in olive oil for two weeks.
Fermented garlic scales and garlic scape relish. Amabel is in training with the fermentation master. . .
The jars are already sizzling with bubbles.
Tiny terrarium necklaces for the Artists Market. More details about our preparations coming soon!
Spring is a windy beach, still clean from a half a year of ice and snow.
Spring is a handful of radishes fresh from the moist earth.
Spring is a half-grown chick — part bird, part dinosaur.
Spring is a baby with bare arms. And bare feet.
Spring is a morning in the garden.
Four weeks ago we started our first batch of seedlings in a friend’s greenhouse. We escaped the chill of a 17-degree afternoon for a balmy 60 degrees and surrounded ourselves with trays of emerging shoots and the promise of spring. Four weeks ago it was quiet in the greenhouse.
Yesterday we went back to a completely different scene. Our baby plants were “huge” and the greenhouse was bustling. I’m surprised that our farmer friend still generously lets us start plants in his space because my how his operation has grown over the past few years. Inside tables were completely full of plants, and dozens of trays had already been moved outside under row cover to “harden off.” As many as seven people were inside the greenhouse at once: transplanting peppers, starting tomatoes, watering, moving flats of seedlings. I managed to snap just a few quick photos when we first arrived (at the end of the lunch hour), before the hustle and bustle resumed.
We have a mini chamomile forest again (I can’t blame the girls this time; I seeded the chamomile plants myself!) as well as some new flowers that we’ve never grown before (Sweet Alyssum, Statice, Chinese Forget-Me-Not, Bells of Ireland). We brought home two trays of brassicas all ready to plant in our garden under row cover (kale, broccoli, and brussels sprouts), and so we’ve got our work cut out for us at home this weekend.
A month ago it was 60 degrees in the greenhouse but yesterday it was over 80! Ellen suggested that we take off our boots and go barefoot.
I have to pace myself in the bright light and heat (and I no longer care that my sunhat looks rediculous). Fortunately, the girls were a great help yesterday. They worked with me to make the soil blocks; write labels for the trays; and seed many varieties of tomatoes, basil, peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, parsley, squash, watermelons, pumpkins, sunflowers, zinnia, and cosmos — among others. All together we started another 400 baby plants. This is our third year starting seedlings in the greenhouse, and it has become a tradition that I look forward to all winter. So much of our garden begins here. We are so grateful to be welcome on Reid’s farm and to be part of a new growing season coming to life.